Encountering God in the Desert – Ash Wednesday

Church of Jesus Christ of the Universe

By Mauro

17 February 2021

(Translated audio)

Ash Wednesday, first day of Lent – I think this year’s time of Lent is special, like all events of this year. Particularly, because of the living presence of Jesus’ intermediary coming[1], because of all the revelations we have received and because, as the Church of Jesus Christ, we are getting more and more to the heart of the battle, of the mission, which also means that we are getting closer and closer to the time of fulfilment.

In the readings[2], as indeed throughout Lent, the emphasis lies on penance and fasting, which is right, but it must be done in a healthy way. I invite you this year, referring to Father Tomislav’s Saturday reflection[3], to live this Lent as a path of redemption, of a living and strong encounter with the living Jesus, who came to be encountered, who is among us, and that must not go unnoticed. He comes to be welcomed and to collaborate with us so that we become instruments of redemption for all humanity. Therefore, fasting and prayer must help us to encounter Jesus; they are not ends in themselves.

At the end of his letter Saint Paul says: “In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.”[4]

If we do not take these words seriously, now, wasting this time of Lent, every day from now to Easter, without welcoming the favourable moment, it would mean not having listened to His Word, having hardened our hearts again, wanting to live a superficial relationship with our Creator.

Furthermore, as a priestly, prophetic and royal people, we must especially live this encounter and this time with supplications and prayers, not only for ourselves but also in view of this pandemic, of this situation, in the way the prophet Joel expressed it: “Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations.’”[5]  We too must raise this supplication.

In order to live this time in the right way, we see that the Gospel[6] also speaks of retreating into the desert. Immediately after His baptism, Jesus went to the desert to prepare Himself; to prepare for the mission He went to the desert for forty days. The Gospel speaks about praying in secret, doing almsgiving in secret, fasting in secret[7]; that is a desert. I think that, nowadays, it is difficult for us to look for a desert outside of ourselves, outside of the context in which we live. But this is a time in which we have to go into ourselves and stand face to face with ourselves and God. It is a time of verification, and thus it is a time of redemption, and the living presence of Jesus helps us to experience daily passages of redemption in order to be resurrected if we live these forty days like this in this time of inner desert.

It was Jesus’ preparation for His mission; let us also see it as preparation for our mission so as to discover our identity more and more; it is a profound preparation. Look, in this desert, which God lets us experience within us, He puts us in situations that make us feel alone, even though we are not; in those situations we can verify our faith: where is it? What is it based on? On God or on our securities? We can verify our hope: in whom do we hope? Do we hope in God? Do we believe in His action? Do we hope in fasting? Do we hope in prayer? Do we hope in a brother or a sister? Do we hope in the Pope? Do we hope in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Universe? All this is wonderful, but it is not enough. Our hope is in God. It is a time to verify: whom have we given our life to? Have we given it to God, or have we given it to the Church? Have we given it to God or have we given it to another person, even in the name of God?

I know these are subtleties, but have the courage to let the Holy Spirit enlighten you within. Precisely those moments of inner desert, of trial, where you no longer have any emotions are the right time to verify this, not when you are well, happy, at peace and joyful. This type of verification must be done when you experience a trial. Then, you will see what matters in your life, what your life really needs. Then, you will  thoroughly examine whether the only thing that counts is doing God’s will; if the beautiful words you say when you are well are true: “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”[8] I only want your face; I just want to be yours, I want to be your spouse. This is what we verify when we are in the desert. This is what Lent should be: to allow God to lead us to the desert.

By doing so, by giving these answers, our identity as children of God, as a priestly, prophetic and royal people and, this year more than ever, the identity of being servants in His own Church is illuminated ever more clearly: the identity given by a particular service or a particular mission, even a simple one. More than ever, there is a desire in us to pray to God for the good and the bad; to pray to God for this humanity, to pray to God to encounter Him fully in Jesus’ intermediate coming and to be one with Him. It is a cry that truly rises from the depth our heart when we have been led to the inner desert. God does not do that because He wants to test us; He does it because, if we do not enter into a truly profound relationship with Jesus by offering ourselves through Mary’s Heart, we will not manage, because the clash with the forces of evil is not a joke; it is the last battle.

Thus, it is necessary to be verified; it is necessary to remove everything that burdens us and has led us to forget the essential path. On this path, I said, everything that has not yet been redeemed within us, all that must rise again and be transformed will emerge; this also happens out of love because, if we are approaching the time of fulfilment and nothing impure will be able to enter the Kingdom of God, it is good that everything comes to the surface. Also, I said that, as Church, we do this path for ourselves, for the love of God and for all humanity; it is a priestly path.

As always, we refer to what He asked us: “I ask you to be faithful and simple.” Also, Jesus’ intermediary coming is not something abstract or magical; it is something very simple if we perceive it in spirit. It is, once again, the Son of God who descends because He realises that the Eucharist is not enough; that the extraordinary instruments are not enough; that the angels, the faithful brothers, the Central Nucleus are not enough; that His Mother, who is present, is not enough, and thus He comes again. It is not complicated, but we must welcome Him and live a relationship with Him.

So, what is simplicity again? It is what we know from the Gospel: to believe, to love one another, to pray for all and bless all, the good and the bad. It means to forgive one another, to promote good everywhere, to stay in the truth without judging, allowing God to make us become light that illuminates, not a judging light, but light that enables us to see. Do not judge anyone, not even yourselves, and continue to seek the Father through the Son, with this awareness: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”[9] Let us stay in these simple tracks and allow Jesus to accompany us to the desert with His coming; together with Him, we will reach Easter ready for the resurrection.

So, once again I entrust the path of all of us to Mary Most Holy; I entrust it to Saint Joseph, and I entrust it to the whole Church. May we all descend joyfully and with Jesus into our spirit. With joy, we shall go through all that Jesus has planned for us for our good and for our resurrection; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

[1] See Mt 3,13-17 e 4,1-11; Mk 1,9-13; Lk 4,1-13

[2] Gal 2, 12-18; 2Cor 5, 20-6,2;Mt 6, 1-6.16-18

[3] See Reflections of Father Tomislav of 13 February 2021, “The Mystery of Redemption”, published on our website, https://towardsthenewcreation.com/

[4] See 2 Cor 6,1-2

[5] See Joel 2,17

[6] See Mt 3,13-17 e 4,1-11; Mk 1,9-13; Lk 4,1-13

[7] See Mt 6,1-6.16-17

[8] See Psalm 27,8

[9] See John 17,3